Taylor Heinicke will start for Washington in NFL playoff game vs. Tampa Bay

Jami Frankenberry, The Virginian-Pilot

Taylor Heinicke, whose flair for dramatic performances made him a legend at Old Dominion, was named the Washington Football Team’s starting quarterback for Saturday night’s playoff game against Tampa Bay.

Starter Alex Smith, nursing a calf injury, was inactive after starting and playing all the snaps in last week’s regular-season finale against Philadelphia.

Heinicke, 27, will make his second career NFL start – the first since playing for Carolina in 2018 – and will appear in his first NFL playoff game.

Heinicke this week split snaps with Smith during practice.

Heinicke just a few weeks ago was taking online classes to finish his ODU degree. But as he prepared for his final two exams, he got a call from Washington, and two weeks ago was thrust into the lineup in the fourth quarter of a game against Carolina.

Heinicke was signed to Washington’s practice squad earlier this month, but was added to the roster when an injured Smith sat out two games. He relieved starter Dwayne Haskins and completed 12 of 19 passes for 137 yards and a touchdown in Washington’s 20-13 loss against Carolina.

Haskins, Washington’s 2019 first-round pick, was released after the game against Carolina.

Heinicke became ODU’s starting quarterback under coach Bobby Wilder in 2011 and finished his four-year career with 14,959 passing yards and 132 touchdown passes. He was an All-American and the Walter Payton Award winner as a sophomore in 2012.

At ODU, Heinicke set a number of Football Championship Subdivision records - season passing yards (5,076), total yards in a game (791), passing yards (730) and passing attempts in a game without an interception (79).

Heinicke was undrafted after leaving ODU, and had short stints and limited success with four NFL teams: Minnesota, New England, Houston and Carolina. He was on the St. Louis BattleHawks’ roster in the XFL this season before the league folded.

Jami Frankenberry, 757-446-2376, jami.frankenberry@pilotonline.com.